The University of Virginia women’s basketball team had a tough season this year, ranking the lowest in the ACC and ending the year with a 5–22 record. Thankfully, the athletic department has ambitious plans for the 2022–2023 season.
With the NCAA Board of Governors recently voting to create “opportunity for transgender athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion, and safety for all who compete,” the UVA Athletics Department saw a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of. Immediately after the men’s season-ending loss to St. Bonaventure in the NIT, the department announced that the team would officially be taking the place of the current women’s team next year by competing as transgender women.
The bold move is the first of its kind in the nation, and the University is already being praised for its ingenuity and inclusiveness. Following the announcement, UVA shot up to #1 in the projected NCAA women’s basketball power rankings.
According to the University’s press release, the men’s team will begin the transition process this summer, where they will undergo gender-affirming hormone therapy at UVA Health to prepare for the strategic change. Each athlete’s testosterone levels will be documented by the team’s physical therapists until they are at levels that qualify them as women. When asked by reporters whether the athletes will receive any other types of treatment, such as breast augmentation, a UVA spokesperson said subsequent treatments were unnecessary, since estrogen injections are enough to satisfy NCAA guidelines. The men, who will officially be considered women by August, will be able to preserve all of their existing biological features.
“Although this initiative will shatter the glass ceiling for transgender athletics, we will not be requiring our male athletes to undergo a full transition,” said the spokesperson, who cited the NCAA’s low bar. In fact, the school conceded that most of the fourth-year athletes competing as women next year will actually be detransitioning once the season ends. “We want to be remembered as not only a university that normalized gender-inclusive athletics and broke civil rights barriers, but also a school that demolished the competition and won it all in the process.”
In regards to this year’s women’s team, the University noted that they will become next year’s club team. “We will continue to support our biological female athletes on the club level,” said UVA Athletics Director Carla Williams. The school, however, revoked all existing women’s basketball scholarships.
In light of the development, the sports world has gone wild. Many on social media are already betting that UVA will bring home its first women’s basketball title next year. On ESPN, Scott Van Pelt commented about the incoming women’s team: “The Cavaliers are going to be absolutely electric. They will tower over the competition, literally and figuratively. They are going to take it all the way.” Tickets for next year’s women’s Final Four in Dallas, Texas have already sold out in anticipation of UVA’s dominance.
On Grounds, many students gleamed with happiness following the news, especially Women, Gender, and Sexuality majors. “It’s a historic day for UVA. I’m so glad our school is supporting the trans community,” said one student who described herself as a feminist. Many female student athletes, on the other hand, were not as excited. “The fact that UVA is taking its men’s team and playing them against women is totally obscene. I’m fine with creating a separate division for transgender athletes, but this just hurts women,” said one field hockey player. She went on to say that one of the players transitioning is her classmate: “We have to call her Jennifer in class now, even though she says we can still call her Jonathon when we’re off Grounds. She still has a beard and laughs when she talks about how easy it is to dunk on girls. I’m thankful I play a sport that only girls play. If I was in England, I probably wouldn’t be as lucky.”
So far, no other school has announced plans to transition their male teams for women’s competition. Given UVA’s projected success, however, it is likely that more fully-transgender women’s teams will form at other schools. A recent leak out of UCLA detailed the school’s plans to build an LGBTQ+ health wing on one of their athletic facilities.
In the meantime, UVA is being hailed as a beacon of social justice. Following endless praise in the media, the University released a statement further celebrating its groundbreaking initiative: “At UVA, we support our athletes. Most importantly, we support our athletes who identify as women, and we will continue to encourage our male athletes to compete in arenas where they are most likely to find success. We sought fairness in college sports, and we found it. Transgender women in athletics aren’t supported everywhere, but they have our support here. We’ll see you in Dallas in 2023.”
The opinions expressed within this piece represent the views of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jefferson Independent.
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